Tech in Education: How Schools are Staying Ahead of the Curve

June 15, 2015 by Alex Collins, IT Services Consultant

If you think staying ahead of the technology curve is hard on CEOs, you should see how tough it is for educators.

The educational environment is changing fast. The disruption process going on in the corporate world has spilled over into education - and educators have their hands full coping.

"The widespread use of mobile devices on campuses, the increase in digital content and the need for more personalized learning are changing how students learn and how classes at all levels are taught," writes eReport's Anne Dunlap-Kahren, commenting on the findings of a 2015 K-12 Market Forecast released by the Center for Digital Education (CDE).

Educators' increased spending on IT reflects their attempt to keep up with the new reality. At the K-12 level (reports the CDE forecast), a bigger chunk of the budget now goes towards digital content solutions, mobile devices and networking. The CDE estimates that total education IT spending will top $21 billion in 2015, with the K-12 segment in particular increasing per-student spending by 18 percent to to $13,200 by 2022-23.

But how well has increased spending addressed the problem?

The answer: not very well at the moment. School districts and educational institutions all over the U.S. complain of a lack of internal expertise and infrastructure, and the increased IT budgets can only go so far to address the shortfall.

Despite students' growing familiarity with using digital content, only a small portion (22 percent) of educational institutions have a complete strategy for transitioning into digital. A miniscule 3 percent have completed the transition into all-digital curriculum and content.

Educators need outside help

"Education IT leaders are looking for solutions and guidance about how others have solved their infrastructure issues to move teaching and learning into the digital world," e.Report's Dunlap-Kahren notes.

A New York school district could teach them a thing or two. Westchester School District 92.5 faced many of the same difficulties noted above: its old equipment had trouble meeting the growing expectations of its community, but the district's restricted budget - and the perception that few IT providers knew their specific requirements - gave the management pause.

It took a meeting between the district's Director of Finance and Operations Mike Prombo, its Director of Technology John Paul Scheckel, and key personnel from Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. to work out a solution that overcame the difficulties they faced.

A cost-effective, comprehensive solution

The district chose to implement All Covered IT Services as part of Konica Minolta's larger EnvisionIT Education package. The solution was both comprehensive and cost-effective: All Covered implemented a complete technology refresh that replaced ageing Novell OS servers and machines with a new Windows-based environment; implemented wireless connectivity district-wide; and distributed new laptops for staff and students alike.

The new infrastructure allowed the district to access All Covered's 24/7 managed IT support, which in turn freed staff to focus on integrating technology into their everyday pedagogical workflow - perhaps the most important part of the project.

"Studies show that technology-enabled curriculum, when paired with a holistic teaching approach and a solid technology plan can have dramatic effects,” explains All Covered President Todd Croteau. "It leads to increased student engagement, greater student retention, higher attendance rates, improved staff performance and improved test scores."

Road map for the future

Their positive experience with All Covered encouraged state education authorities to approve a technology assessment and planning project worth $6,000 that would create a three-year roadmap and sustainability plan for the district. Combining education with cutting-edge IT would no longer be a pipe dream.

"We selected Konica Minolta's All Covered IT Services to help guide us in meeting our technology goals while keeping in mind the tight finances that we face," Westchester School District 92.5 Director of Finance and Operations Mike Prombo explains. "With Konica Minolta's help, I know that our district is ready to move forward with any curriculum or reporting requirement that might surface for the next 5 years."

Westchester School District 92.5's example could very well be a roadmap for the rest of the educational community: by seeking help from experts like All Covered, educational institutions can advance technology-based curriculums in a cost-effective manner, building an IT infrastructure that complies with educational standards while improving student performance at the same time.

How's that for beating the curve?